Sep 28, 2023  
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog 
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog

Social Work, M.S.W.

The University of Southern Maine’s School of Social Work is committed to educating culturally competent social work practitioners prepared for multi-level, strengths-based practice that values social justice and the centrality of community and environment in enhancing the well-being of diverse individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. The Master of Social Work (MSW) program will educate and produce advanced social work practitioners.

Program Requirements

The MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The School of Social Work graduate program description and requirements contained here are supplemented by the MSW Handbook, which can be accessed online here. It is important to recognize that students will be held to the policies and standards in this catalog, the MSW Handbook, and the Field Work Manual.

There are three different cohorts for the standard MSW program: two year standard, three year low residency, four year standard. All students in the regular program options complete 61 credits. We also offer two options for Advanced Standing students who have completed a BSW in the last 7 years: one year advanced standing and two year advanced standing. Advanced standing students complete the 600-level curriculum only, which is 33 credits.


Generalist Year

The first year curriculum (generalist year) provides a broad-based introduction to the social work profession. Students take 31 credits of study. During the first semester, students complete the course, SWO 501 - Multicultural Social Work , which provides a framework for integrating and centering the issue of diversity within the profession of social work. Courses taken during the generalist year are:

Specialization Year

During the second year of the full-time program (specialization year), students deepen their competency for multi-level professional practice within the advanced social work practice curriculum. Increased emphasis is placed on the development of creativity, critical thinking, valuing diversity, social and economic justice, and leadership. Students are prepared to work with individuals and families as well as organizations and communities. During the specialization year, students complete 30 additional credits including two semesters of field work (500 hours) and two electives. In consultation with their faculty advisors, students can select graduate electives in the School of Social Work and/or other University programs. No more than six graduate credits can be taken outside the School, and elective courses should support the advanced social work practice specialization and the individual student’s career goals.

Specialization year courses are:

Recommended Course Sequence

Please follow the link below to review course lists and curriculum sequences for each cohort:

(1) One Year Advanced Standing

(2) Two Year Advanced Standing

(3) Two Year Standard

(4) Three Year Low Residency

(5) Four Year Standard

The School of Social Work MSW Program Curriculums can be found here.

Additional Information

Time Requirements

The graduation requirement for the standard and low residency MSW degree is 61 credits, which can be taken in one, two, three or four year sequences. Students will be admitted as a cohort group either one year advanced standing, two year advanced standing, two year standard, three year low residency, or four year standard course sequence. In extenuating circumstances, an extension of the time requirement for completing the MSW program may be considered (see the MSW Student Handbook). The generalist year field placement includes 400 hours and the specialization year placement is 500 hours, each across two consecutive semesters. For low residency students, the two fieldwork placements are taken during the second and third years. All students enrolled in fieldwork are required to take the associated practice courses concurrently. Practice and field courses cannot be taken independently. Successful completion of foundation year fieldwork and practice is a prerequisite for entering concentration year field and practice.

The standard and advanced standing MSW program options are designed to be face-to-face with most courses requiring in-person presence on USM Portland campus. Only few courses are offered online. You must be able to attend classes on the Portland campus for classes to complete the MSW program. We make every effort to schedule all MSW courses on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and when we cannot do this, courses will be online or after 5 pm on another day. No classes are held on Friday for standard and advanced standing program students. The School of Social Work’s low residency MSW program option, which is best for students who work full time, are held online (summer, fall, spring for three years) with students required to come to campus two Fridays per semester for day-long, in-person class sessions. If you are working full time and would like to pursue your MSW degree, you are encouraged to apply specifically to the low residency program unless your work schedule has some flexibility. Keep in mind that all program options require field placements where you are expected to be at your training site for 16-20 hours per week during fall and spring semesters (fieldwork does not happen during summer months). Field placements are required even if working full time. Students should plan their schedules accordingly to ensure they can attend required classes, engage in academic work and meet the fieldwork requirements.

The advanced standing program is 33 credits which is the concentration year of the MSW program (including three elective courses). Advanced standing students may matriculate into the program for one full-time year or two part-time years. The field placement requirement for the advanced standing program is 500 hours across two consecutive semesters, in line with the concentration year curriculum plan. It should be noted that the one-year advanced standing program is highly demanding and outside full-time employment is discouraged.

Once enrolled in the program, a change in cohort requires approval from the MSW Coordinator. Cohort changes must be requested by the end of fall semester for the following year in order for the School of Social Work to anticipate enrollment numbers. Please see the MSW Student Handbook for more details about this request process.

Field Work

Field education is the heart of the MSW program. Professional social work education provides the necessary opportunity for students to apply and integrate classroom learning with social work practice in the community. A range of challenging field work placements exists in innovative and well-established social service agencies throughout Maine. Any decision about the suitability of a proposed placement rests with the School of Social Work.

The field work component of the MSW policies and procedures are detailed in the Field Work Manual that is available through the School of Social Work website. All MSW students are responsible for following the policies outlined in the manual.

Graduate Assistantships and Scholarships

A limited number of graduate assistantships are available to MSW students through the Office of Graduate Studies. Graduate assistants must carry a minimum of 6 credits of course work per semester. Duties may involve research and other projects for assisting social work faculty. Information on various types of scholarships and financial aid is available online at the USM Graduate Studies website at

Program Policies

The following academic policies supplement and clarify those that are detailed at the beginning of this catalog.


Each student is assigned a faculty advisor upon admission to the program. Students should maintain regular contact with their faculty advisors throughout their course of study. Additionally, students are required to consult with their advisors each semester before registering for courses for the upcoming semester. The advising session includes discussion of career goals, progress in the program, elective course selection, and change of student status.

Grade Policy: Course Grades and GPA

Students must maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA in all course work in the program in order to remain in good standing and be eligible for a MSW degree. Students must receive a minimum of B- grade in all courses. Students receiving a grade below B- in a course must retake the course and receive a passing grade. Students who fall below 3.0 GPA will be placed on academic probation. If the student fails to bring the overall GPA up to a minimum of 3.0 by the end of the following semester, she/he may be dismissed from the MSW program. In addition, advanced standing students who fail to receive a minimum grade of a B- in a practice course will be withdrawn from field placement and may lose her/his advanced standing status. The student, upon losing the advanced standing status, may continue in the standard MSW program, pending the results of an Academic Review.

Grade Policy: Incompletes

Incomplete grades are granted only in extenuating circumstances at the discretion of the instructor. Students must request to be considered for an incomplete grade with the instructor well in advance of the end of a given semester. An incomplete grade must be changed to a full grade prior to progression to the next sequential course. Students who do not complete the required work by the designated time may be ineligible to take subsequent required courses and field practicum.

Academic Review Policy

Please refer to the MSW Student Handbook for a detailed description of the Academic Review Policy and Procedures as well as expectations and students rights. Click here for the MSW Student Handbook.

Academic Grade Appeal Policy

Refer to USM Grade Appeal Policy.

Leave of Absence

Matriculated students who have extenuating circumstances (illness, birth of a child, change in financial situation, etc.) requiring a leave of absence (LOA) from school may request this for up to one year and return without reapplying to the program. Students should discuss the request first with their faculty advisors and submit a LOA form for approval by the MSW Program Coordinator.

Continuous Enrollment Requirement

Graduate students in the School of Social Work must be continuously enrolled in the MSW program, with at least 6 credits every semester. Students who have completed all coursework and have opted to complete a thesis are required to register for GRS 601, a non-credit course that carries a fee and entitles the student to continued access to USM computers, library, and recreational facilities. In extenuating circumstances, a student may petition for a waiver of the continuous enrollment policy. In order to petition for this, students must obtain the approval of their faculty advisor and the MSW Program Coordinator before being submitted to the Director and the CMHS Dean. A waiver notification will then be sent to the Office of Graduate Studies. Students who have been accepted into the program may apply to the MSW Admissions Chair to defer the admission for one year only. A deferment notification will be sent to the Office of Graduate Admissions.

Non-Matriculated Status

Students may take up to six credits at USM on a non-matriculated basis. The following courses are open to non-matriculated students, space permitting: SWO 501 - Multicultural Social Work  and SWO 504 - Social Welfare Policy I . Please note that current matriculated students have priority in registering for these courses. Non-matriculated students who are later admitted to the MSW program may apply these credits toward the program requirements. After obtaining written permission from the MSW Coordinator and the course instructor, non-matriculated students can register as non-degree graduate students through the USM Registrar’s Office.

Program Scheduling

While the School of Social Work will make every effort to maintain consistency in its course offerings, it is important to note that the scheduling of courses is subject to change at any time without advance notice.